It’s not the age, it’s the mileage: Why 35-year-old Mirage was India’s best bet against Pakistan The multirole aircraft Mirage 2000 made by French warplane maker Dassault has been the backbone of the IAF and was used for dropping laser-guided bombs on peaks occupied by Pakistani intruders during the Kargil War in 1999.
The IAF was close to signing a deal for buying 126 Mirage 2000-5s, but the deal was converted into the MMRCA fighter aircraft contest ultimately won by Dassault’s Rafale.
The Mirage 2000 was replaced by the Rafale in French air force service. India will, however, continue flying both the Mirage and the Rafale for many years.
In its dual role as a nuclear weapons carrier for India’s Strategic Forces Command, the Mirage 2000can carry a single 20 kiloton nuclear bomb, more powerful than the 15KT bomb was used over Hiroshima.
The Mirage 2000 fleet has an extremely high availability of over 80 per cent of the fleet is available for flying. In contrast, only 60 per cent of the IAF’s fleet of Sukhoi-30s is available for flying.
India signed a 2011 deal with France worth Rs 17,547 crore to upgrade its fleet of 49 Mirage 2000aircraft to the 2000-5 standard with new glass cockpits, radars, missiles and self-protection suites.
The upgrade and life-extension will see the IAF’s Mirage 2000s in service until 2040, potentially making it the IAF’s longest-serving fighter jet.